Wednesday, June 03, 2020

JOTWELL: Wasserman on Bray on mischief

I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Samuel L. Bray, The Mischief Rule (forthcoming Geo. L.J.) and connecting his arguments about the statutory mischief rule as a solution to snap removal.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 3, 2020 at 10:39 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Cert denied in three qualified immunity cases

In a post about the Reuters stories on qualified immunity, I mentioned that SCOTUS had multiple cert petitions in the May 15 conference dealing with qualified immunity. Monday's Orders List included denials in three: Kelsay v. Ernst (police officer slams woman to the ground), Jessop v. City of Fresno (officers stole $ 225,000 in cash and rare coins while executing search warrant), and Clarkston v. White (retaliatory denial of charter-school application, where real issue was proper defendant rather than whether right was clearly establish). No noted dissents from any of the cases, even the truly egregious Jessop. Ten other petitions remain with the Court, including several that ask the Court to rethink the entire doctrine.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 18, 2020 at 09:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Online education on trial?

This op-ed describes a lawsuit against George Washington by the lawyer/parent of a GW student, alleging breach of contract because the claim that the school continues to deliver quality education regardless of formate is "demonstrably false."

When we went underground in March, there was some discussion of whether schools could succeed with a force majeure defense. The op-ed raised a different question for me: Will resolution of this claim require a court or jury to decide whether online education is comparable to in-person education and how comparable must it be? And will a court be willing (or willing to allow a jury) to resolve that policy question as a factual matter?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2020 at 05:44 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

When the middle might be worse than the extreme

Although several months away, universities, including law schools, are trying to figure out how to conduct fall classes. This Inside Higher Ed piece from April offered fifteen scenarios. The favored approach seems to be a return to campus, but with social-distancing and other protocols and with accommodations for students and faculty with age, health, or other reasons for being unable to return to the workplace without a vaccine or herd immunity.*

[*] And assuming that the wave of reopenings in May and June does not produce spikes in cases in June and July that set us back by several months.

Which really means that most schools will be doing a hybrid. They will be mixing in-person, remote, and online classes. And  in-person classes must have remote components. Professors who want to return to the live classroom will have to divide their sections (half the class live on Day One, the other half live on Day Two) and combine it with interactive technology--namely some kind of Zoom or similar hook-up--for the students who cannot be there. (Recording or live-streaming the regular live class is not a reasonable accommodation).

I have been thinking about how this will work and I am not sure it will. My in-person classes work because of a high level of engagement with the students in the room--a rapidly moving conversation, my pacing and moving around the room a lot, and working with and off stuff written on the dry-erase boards. I do not see how I can do that while being close enough to the computer to interact with those students, answer questions, see who is chatting or raising a hand, etc. People on Zoom cannot see the dry-erase board, so visuals would have to be on share screen in addition to the Board. In being close enough to the computer to engage the remote students, however, I fear I am going to lose meaningful interaction with the students in the room.

Given that, I think I might prefer to keep the entire class via Zoom. I believe I reached a point in March and April were I could run a Zoom class that was a reasonable approximation of an engaged law-school course that challenged students, engaged students, and taught students what they needed to know. It remains inferior to an in-person class. But it may be preferable to a hybrid that does a poor job for both sets of students.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2020 at 04:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

§ 1983 or the 11th Amendment

One of my pet peeves is confusion about why states cannot be sued in § 1983 actions: It often is short-handed as being about sovereign immunity depriving a court of jurisdiction, when doctrinally it is about states not being "persons" subject to suit under the statute and there being no cause of action against a state (or state agency).

This arose in Colorado Dept. of State v. Baca (over "faithless elector" laws)  through questions by Justices Breyer and Gorsuch suggesting that the parties colluded to maintain a meritless action in order to obtain a judicial ruling. It appears Baca sued the Secretary of State, then the parties negotiated to have the Department be named defendant and to not challenge its non-suability under § 1983. I would guess that proceeding against the state rather than the secretary was necessary for Baca to proceed with a claim for nominal damages, which was essential to establishing and maintaining standing. Counsel for both sides argued that the Court should not concern itself with this, that the availability of a cause of action is a non-jurisdictional issue that the parties can waive.* Gorsuch suggested that, even if waivable, it might be a basis to DIG the case.

[*] Scott Dodson blanched when he heard that.

I am glad both Justices used the appropriate terminology and framework and wish lower courts would follow suit. But it reveals how nonsensical it is to think of sovereign immunity (which has nothing to do with the text of the Eleventh Amendment) as a jurisdictional rather than merits limitation. Where Congress lacks power to abrogate (e.g., ADEA), the limitation is jurisdictional; where Congress has the power but declined to exercise it (e.g., § 1983), it is merits. Even if in both cases, a state is willing to be sued eo nomine.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 14, 2020 at 12:50 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Providing Real-World Context for the 1L Civil Procedure Course

The following post is by Jack H. Friedenthal (GW), Arthur R. Miller (NYU), John E. Sexton (NYU), and Helen Hershkoff (NYU) and is sponsored by West Academic.

Civil procedure scholars disagree about many things—the scope of pleading rules, the need for liberal discovery, the role of litigation as a regulatory enforcement mechanism. But there is universal agreement that the first-year course is challenging to teach: As the law reviews put it, the course is “hard," “mystifying, frustrating, and difficult” and even “alien and incomprehensible." Civil procedure teachers also agree on the source of the problem: Our students typically lack a real-world context in which to study and engage with the rules and doctrines that they are learning. Numerous teachers have stepped up with excellent books that can supplement the basic procedure casebook, offering simulated case studies, drafting exercises, and practical study aides. Unquestionably these resources can enhance the classroom experience and improve student learning outcomes. Indeed, we reference many of these titles in the Teacher’s Manual to our casebook. The COVID-19 crisis, and the need for many of us to teach remotely, has created additional difficulties for teaching the first-year course as we each incorporate technology into the classroom.


To be sure, teaching and learning Civil Procedure require active engagement both by the professor and the student. However, not every professor is comfortable with technology, and when compelled to teach remotely, might choose to retreat into lecture-style classes. This approach runs the risk of producing rote memorization without maximizing the student’s skill development; at worst, it could stunt the student’s professional growth. Teaching during the pandemic, while the world is shuttered, thus makes it all the more imperative for the teacher to locate and to assign experiential exercises that the students can undertake even while studying remotely; these supplemental materials must be easily accessible on-line and conducive to serving multiple purposes throughout the course. Moreover, choosing from among different exercises must take account not only of a teacher’s individual comfort level with technology, but also the technology that is available at the law school (for example, the “break out” room function on Zoom) and in student living spaces, which in some situations are equipped with erratic or insufficient bandwidth. Recognizing all of these new pressures, we thought it timely to point out the helpful pedagogic tools that are contained in our
Civil Procedure Supplement for Use with All Pleading and Procedure Casebooks, which many of you already use in connection with our casebook. We also will include in our annual Update Memo materials that illustrate how civil procedure is adapting to the pandemic—changes in local rules, the availability of conferencing and oral argument by technology, permission to do constructive service, and so forth.
It’s obvious that the Supplement is an up-to-date source for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure plus other relevant source materials, such as provisions from the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Code, state constitutions, local rules, and Rules of Appellate Procedure. It also contains edited versions of recent cases of the Supreme Court of the United States. But don’t overlook its utility in providing students with context and opportunities for experiential learning: the Flow Chart of a Civil Action, an Illustrative Litigation Problem with Sample Documents, and the complaints in Twombly and Iqbal. The materials are designed for students at an early stage in their substantive legal education, can be coordinated with reading assignments from our casebook (or from other casebooks), and is compact and accessible.

First, the Flow Chart. As its name suggests, the chart is both a study aide and classroom tool (it originally was designed by Professor Michael Goldberg of the Widener University School of Law, to whom we are grateful, and since has been updated and the graphics, upgraded). The chart depicts the various stages of the lawsuit and marks the different entry points into the rules and doctrines typically taught in the 1L course. Studies show that students learn better if they have images—even simple images—in which to store ideas and information. The chart simplifies procedural moves without being simplistic. The graphics can serve as motivators to learning: Students are encouraged to move forward in the course as they move forward from box to box. Our students did not grow up watching the movie The Blair Witch Project, but they know what it means to be lost in the forest without a GPS or iPhone. The Flow Chart is a kind of map that guides students and helps them map for themselves the strategic advance of a lawsuit.

Second, the Illustrative Litigation Problem. The problem complements the Flow Chart by providing a simulated case file for a lawsuit involving a familiar kind of dispute—a car accident—building on substantive material that many students will be learning in their 1L Torts class. The problem helps to give a general picture of the flow of a lawsuit, and provides sample documents that illustrate how specific procedural rules and issues may arise during the course of a litigation. We find it helpful to point out the problem’s relevance to the particular topics that we are covering in class. So, for example, when we are teaching subject matter jurisdiction, we ask the students to look at Count One of the sample complaint and to discuss whether the complaint includes the necessary allegations to establish diversity of citizenship. Likewise, when we are teaching personal jurisdiction, we ask the students how the evolving standard they are studying, as we move from Pennoyer to International Shoe and on through World-Wide Volkswagen and Nicastro, affects the lawyer’s drafting of the complaint and the facts that the complaint must allege.

Third, drafting exercises. The Illustrative Litigation Problem offers opportunities to have students engage with drafting exercises. These exercises can be done in class or outside of class, individually or collaboratively, and we find it helpful that they be designed with ever-increasing complexity. For example, the question following the amended complaint asks whether defendants, or any one of them, may have the entire case removed to federal court. That question provides the opportunity to have the students draft a motion to remove by one defendant and by all defendants, accompanied by a memorandum of law in support. Similarly, students are asked whether Party B will be successful in challenging the joinder of parties. Students can be asked to draft the motion in opposition together with a supporting memorandum of law.

Civil Procedure is no doubt challenging to teach. One of the hardest parts is helping the students to appreciate how even small, seemingly technical changes can impact rights by raising the costs of enforcement and creating barriers to relief. Making sure that the students have a clear sense of the stages of a lawsuit and how different procedural opportunities inter-relate is an important start, and we believe that the Flow Chart provides a useful pedagogic aide in achieving that goal. Likewise, engaging with simulated lawyering exercises that illustrate how the rules operate in action reinforces student learning, and the Illustrative Litigation problem offers a convenient mechanism. We welcome your suggestions about how to teach the course and how to improve the Supplement so that it meets your classroom needs.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 11, 2020 at 03:26 PM in Civil Procedure, Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 08, 2020

Reuters on qualified immunity

Reuters on Friday published a multi-part series on qualified immunity. The center of the study is a empirical look at how Pearson v. Callahan and the Court's recent string of summary reversals changed how courts of appeals handle qualified immunity. Its findings:

  • In 2005-07, plaintiffs in excessive-force cases prevailed 56 % of the time; in 2017-19, defendants prevailed 57 % of the time.

EXfriNtWkAEsfGi

• This graph shows that the flip in plaintiff success is a recent development. From 2014-16, plaintiffs prevailed 52.2 % of the time; for 2017-19, it dropped to 43 %. Some of that might be traceable to the influx of Trump appointees (recognizing that some, such as Don Willetts of the Fifth Circuit, have criticized qualified immunity), as well as the hint from SCOTUS's summary reversals.

• The dark blue represents cases in which the court found no excessive force; the medium blue represents cases in which the court found excessive force but that it was not clearly established that the force was excessive; the light blue represents cases in which the court  skipped the merits question and found that it was not clearly established that the force was excessive. That third category has expanded the past two years.

• Courts (including SCOTUS) increasingly demand factual overlap with precedent before finding a right clearly established. Case in point: The Ninth Circuit granted qualified immunity because no precedent held that the Fourth Amendment was violated by police stealing private property while executing a search warrant.

• The latter two colors (which, on the eyeball test, appear to represent a bit less than half of the defendant victories) establish the new problem: Courts demand factual overlap for a right to be clearly established, then refuse to provide a precedential opinion that can serve to clearly establish that right going forward.*

[*] Courts seem more willing to reach the merits--so the right now is clearly established--in non-police, or at least non-excessive-force, cases.

• SCOTUS will review multiple petitions involving qualified immunity at its May 15 conference. These include the stolen coins, an officer who deployed a police dog on a non-resisting suspect, an officer who shot a child while attempting to shoot the non-threatening family dog, and Kim Davis trying to avoid damages for ignoring Obergefell (I used this in Civil Rights in the fall). Justice Thomas called for reconsidering qualified immunity in his concurring opinion in Ziglar v. Abbasi; this will be a chance to see if anyone else wants to follow him down that path.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 8, 2020 at 02:18 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Courts should not reach out, unless they need to reach out

SCOTUS reached a strange resolution in United States v. Sineneng-Smith, arising from a conviction of an attorney for violating the federal law prohibiting encouraging or inducing non-U.S. persons to enter or remain in the U.S.

The Court vacated and remanded to the Ninth Circuit on grounds of the "principle of party presentation"--that courts must take and resolve cases as they come and are presented by parties represented by competent counsel--and that courts are "passive instruments of government."* And while there are exceptions (as shown in a two-page addendum** in which SCOTUS has appointed amicus or called for further briefing since 2015), the Ninth Circuit went beyond the pale in its management and resolution of the case, was unjustifed by any "extraordinary circumstances." The Court took issue with the court of appeals inviting specific amicus to brief and argue specific constitutional that were broader than what Sineneng's attorney had argued--that the law was overbroad and facially unconstitutional, as opposed to the defendant's arguments that she had a limited First Amendment immunity for her conduct. [I did not say it in the initial post, but I will say it now--the Court did not explain why what the Ninth Circuit did was more beyond the pail than what it does frequently].

[*] The partisan bend of that idea is fascinating, given the make-up of the federal courts and the evolving nature of constitutional and impact litigation.

[**] Any guesses as to why this was an addendum and not part of the opinion?

Justice Thomas concurred, but took the time (reached out, one might say) to explain why the overbreadth doctrine was invalid and should be rejected as unwarranted by text and history, inconsistent with the usual standards for facial challenges, and another improper application of the improper doctrine of third-party standing. He cites his dissent on third-party standing in Whole Women's Health and restates his distaste for this "handiwork of judges, based on the misguided 'notion that some constitutional rights demand preferential treatment.'" Query whether this hints at where the Court might be going on the standing questions in the Louisiana abortion cases.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 7, 2020 at 10:59 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

7th Circuit universal injunction in sanctuary cities case

A Seventh Circuit panel on Thursday unanimously declared invalid DOJ's attempt to withhold funds from sanctuary jurisdictions and affirmed a permanent injunction, dividing 2-1 (Rovner wrote the majority, Manion dissented) on the scope of the injunction (while labeling them "universal" throughout). Rovner's opinion walks through the "veritable cottage industry of scholarly articles" on the subject, while suggesting that the scholarly trend is moving away from the constricted view that such injunctions are flatly prohibited.

The majority ultimately approves universality through a version of an indivisibility argument. Because the DOJ programs are formula grants, application of the invalid condition to other entities affects the amount Chicago receives; for Chicago to get the appropriate funds, no entity can lose funds because of this invalid condition. This is different than, for example, a purely discretionary grant of $ X, in which (unlawfully) depriving California of its money does not affect what Chicago receives. Thus, Chicago cannot get complete relief (the proper money to which it is entitled) unless the injunction bars withholding funds from everyone.

Manion's dissent rejects this on several points. The denial of funds to other entities would never reduce Chicago's award, only increase it (the court divides on what the regulations provide on this). Even if such a "windfall" is improper, the windfall comes only if money is denied to Illinois or other municipalities in Illinois; thus an injunction protecting within Illinois is sufficient, without protecting all entities throughout the country. In any event, the majority still errs by giving relief to non-parties in the guise of giving relief to Chicago.

The panel was unanimous on a different scope issue--"temporal" scope. The injunction prohibits DOJ from withholding funds in "future years." The court properly recognized that showing an injury from enforcement of a grant condition allows a party to challenge and a court to enjoin all current and future impositions of such conditions. The alternative would require a party to return each year to challenge each new denial of funds and imposition of unlawful conditions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 30, 2020 at 05:52 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Civ Pro Workshop Series

Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt) and Adam Steinman (Alabama) have organized a new remote Civil Procedure Workshop Series, hosted by and modeled on the Evidence Workshop run by Ed Cheng at Vanderbilt). It will be weekly 30-minute discussions with a guest speaker discussing current trends or topics, interesting factoids, or teaching ideas. It is open to all Civ Pro teachers.

The first workshop will be at 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT, 1 p.m. MDT, noon PDT), Tuesday, May 5; Alexi Lahav (UConn) will discuss Bristol-Myers Squibb: Going Forward. I will speak on Tuesday, May 12 on a topic TBD.

Register at the above link by clicking on "Register for Civ Pro" (unless you also want to join Ed's Evidence Workshop, which I might do, as well).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 28, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 20, 2020

JOTWELL: Coleman on Wood on the real world of sexual harassment litigation

The new Courts Law essay comes from Brooke Coleman (Seattle), reviewing Diane P. Wood, Sexual Harassment Litigation With a Dose of Reality, 2019 U. Chi. Legal F. 395 (2019), which demonstrates the real-world problems facing sexual-harassment litigants.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 20, 2020 at 09:44 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 10, 2020

University of Miami sued in South Carolina

A putative class action has been filed on behalf of all students against University of Miami, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for sending students home and for teaching them remotely. A lot of people (especially Michael Abramowicz at Volokh) were anticipating such lawsuits and writing about whether schools will have a force majeure defense.

I find the case interesting because the action was filed in South Carolina (where the lead plaintiff lives), raising some jurisdiction and forum-selection problems. Too bad I wrote my exam, because this is a beauty.

Paragraph 8 lists a bunch of minimum contacts, including:

has solicited students residing in South Carolina to attend their institution;
has accepted money, including application and other fees, from students residing in South
Carolina; has participated in college sports competitions and/or academic competitions in
South Carolina; have websites accessible to students in South Carolina; have entered into
contracts with South Carolina residents; and generally have minimum contacts in South
Carolina . . .

A few potential problems.

Sports and academic competitions and an accessible web site are contacts with the state, but those contacts do not seem to "give rise or relate to" the breach of contract claim. That UM's women's basketball team plays Clemson once a year has no connection to whether the school breached its contract by teaching students on-line.

Entering a contract with a South Carolinian gives rise to the claim. But the claims of non-SC class members are not based on contracts entered into  in South Carolina; those contracts were entered into elsewhere. A claim should "relate to" contacts where the defendant engages in identical conduct in the forum state and outside the forum (this is the point in Ford, which was to have been argued at the end of the month). But Bristol Meyers rejected (although not in a federal class action) jurisdiction over claims by out-of-state plaintiffs over out-of-state conduct, even where that conduct is identical to the in-state conduct over which in-state plaintiffs sued. This is Bristol Meyers--identical contracts with SC and non-SC plaintiffs, all plaintiffs together in SC.

There was communication and engagement with South Carolina--soliciting, sending materials, accepting money. But the contract was "about Florida," in that this is where performance was to occur and the things for which plaintiffs paid--dorm space, campus spaces, parking--were in Florida.

If there is jurisdiction, there could be a strong transfer-venue argument, since Miami is the locus of performance of the contract and it is obviously not inconvenient for the plaintiff to travel there, even if she is home in her chosen venue.

One last point on the merits: What do the plaintiffs want and what do they believe the school should have done? They want room-and-board and other campus fees reimbursed, which makes some sense. But what about with respect to tuition? Full tuition reimbursement, even though the students are receiving some (if inferior) instruction? Reimbursement of the difference in value between on-line and in-person education (either for the entire semester or the pro rata portion that went online), however that can be determined? Suspend the semester with full reimbursement and a requirement that the students return for (and pay for) an extra semester at the tail end, thereby delaying graduation by 4-6 months? Or do they want reimbursement and a pass for the semester, so they graduate with only 7 1/2 semesters of course work. Paragraph 24 complains that "the value of any degree issued on the basis of online or pass/fail classes will be diminished for the rest of Plaintiff’s life." Would that be as true if the school awarded a degree with one less semester of work?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 10, 2020 at 02:00 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, April 09, 2020

JOTWELL: Thomas on Green on wage claims by low-wage workers

The new Courts Law essay comes from Suja Thomas (Illinois), reviewing Llezlie Green, Wage Theft in Lawless Courts, 107 Cal. L. Rev. 1303 (2019), discussing the difficulties for low-wage earners bringing wage claims.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 9, 2020 at 11:10 AM in Blogging, Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Class certification in felon-disenfranchisement case

In February, the Eleventh Circuit declared invalid a Florida law that required released felons to pay court-ordered financial obligations before their voting rights could be reinstated, affirming an injunction prohibiting enforcement as to the 17 named plaintiffs. At the time, I wrote:

The question is what happens next. The state remains free to decline to enforce the payment law against anyone while it continues to fight this litigation, even if not enjoined from doing so. That avoids either new litigation and a new injunction involving new plaintiffs or the court certifying a 23(b)(2) class of all felons unable to pay LFOs and extending the existing injunction to the class.

We got the answer on Tuesday. The district court certified a 23(b)(2) class of all persons who would be eligible to vote but-for unpaid obligations and a sub-class of persons who would be eligible but-for unpaid obligations and who show a genuine inability to pay those obligations. The state opposed certification in part on the grounds that an injunction is unnecessary, because the state will abide by any ruling if the plaintiffs prevail on the merits. The district court responded:

Here, though, the Secretary’s promise to abide by any ruling is not enough. After entry of a preliminary injunction in favor of the 17 individual plaintiffs, the Secretary advised Supervisors of Elections throughout the state that the ruling applied only to the 17 individuals. The March 2020 elections went forward on that basiswithout any statewide effort to conform to the United States Constitution as interpreted by both this court and the Eleventh Circuit. Class members can hardly be faulted for asserting that, if the ruling on the merits ultimately is that they have a constitutional right to vote, the right should be recognized in an enforceable decision.

The district court properly nailed the state on its inconsistency--promises of future voluntary compliance with a particularized injunction are undermined by past refusal to voluntarily comply, making the next step of class certification necessary. This is perhaps how litigation should work--a particularized injunction for individuals, expanded to a class if the state chooses not to voluntarily change as to non-parties. This is how some of the marriage-equality litigation proceeded, notably in Alabama.

But the state's framing, at least as described by the district court, is circular: The state would "abide by any court ruling." But any court ruling is limited to the named plaintiffs, so not changing conduct towards non-plaintiffs is not a failure to abide by the ruling. We need a new concept to capture what we want the government to do in changing its enforcement behavior to persons not protected by the injunction. Perhaps we could think of it as abiding not by the injunction but by the law-declaratory aspect of the court's judgment--the signal from the court as to the state of the law, separate from the order compelling government to act or refrain from acting, that hints at what will happen if government continues (as it is free under the particularized injunction) to enforce its laws as to non-parties.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 9, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Universality in Texas

Following on Dan's post about the Tuesday's Texas abortion case and courtesy of Josh Blackman, there is FN 19 of the opinion:
 
Although not necessary to our decision, we note that the district court purported to  enjoin GA-09 as to all abortion providers in Texas. But Respondents are only a subset of  Texas abortion providers and did not sue as class representatives. The district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of GA-09 as to anyone other than the named plaintiffs. See Doran v. Salem Inn, Inc., 422 U.S. 922, 931 (1975) (explaining “neither declaratory nor injunctive relief can directly interfere with enforcement of contested statutes or ordinances except with respect to the particular federal plaintiffs”). The district court should be mindful of this limitation on federal jurisdiction at the preliminary injunction stage.
This is obviously dicta, given how the case came out. But it illustrates two points about the scope-of-the-injunction issue. First, it is not limited to cases involving ederal law and certainly not limited to federal executive orders and regulations. Because the real issue is injunctions extending beyond the parties, it is present regardless of the source of law. Second, had the court come out the other way on the merits, this is a good example of a case in which the practical effect would be universality, either because the government will fall in line and not enforce against anyone or because it would be easy for other providers to join and have the injunction extended to them.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 8, 2020 at 01:09 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Creative Projects

I have written before about the creative projects I do in Civ Pro (I stole the idea for Josh Douglas of Kentucky). For voluntary extra credit, students put together something fun related to the class and the subject: skits, videos, song parodies, poems (lots of haikus), paintings, storybooks, comic strips, etc. At the Q&A session the day before the final, we display and perform them. Many of them are quite good--law students have talent.

The question is whether to do this this year and how. Many of the larger projects are collaborative, which obviously is impossible this year. We will not be in the same space to display the visual projects or to perform. I suppose people can read or show their projects through the Zoom connection and I can run any videos through it. Keeping the project might provide some sense of normalcy (as well as extra points).

Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 30, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, March 23, 2020

States can pirate and plunder copyrighted material all they want

So said the Court in Allen v. Cooper, holding that states cannot be sued for copyright violations. Congress cannot abrogate under its Article I powers other than Bankruptcy Clause, which has "good-for-one-clause" support and the copyright act is not congruent-and-proportional because it reaches all infringements, not only intentional infringements for which states fail to provide adequate remedies. My SCOTUSBlog analysis is here. I got this one wrong after argument and need to stop making predictions based on questioning. I went lighter on the pirate puns because the Justices did it for me.

Some additional points to draw out:

Justice Kagan writes for a clear six (herself, the Chief, Alito, Sotomayor, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh). Justice Thomas writes an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Breyer (joined by Justice Ginsburg) writes an opinion concurring in the judgment. But the labels on the separate opinions are confusing. 

Thomas labels his opinion  "concurring in part and concurring in the judgment," while saying in the first paragraph that he "cannot join the Court’s opinion in its entirety."

A concurrence in the judgment usually means agreement with the result but not the legal analysis leading to the opinion. A concurrence means, in this context, that the author joins the opinion except for a few legal points that do not affect the majority's reasoning and path to the judgment.

Thomas identifies three points of disagreement and pieces with which he does not join: 1) The standard for stare decisis (the majority demands a special justification, while Thomas believes precedent can be overruled if is demonstrably erroneous), although everyone agrees that controlling precedent should not be overruled under either standard; 2) the majority's advice to Congress about how it can enact a valid abrogation, which is dicta; and 3) whether copyrights are property for due process purposes, a point the parties stipulate in this case. None of these points affected how the majority reached its conclusion. It thus makes no sense to label this a concurrence in the judgment; Thomas joined (or appears to have joined) all the parts of the opinion that led to the judgment. This should be a concurring opinion, with Thomas providing a seventh vote for the majority.

Breyer labeling his opinion as concurring in the judgment seems strange for a different reason. He agrees that Florida Prepaid resolves the case, although he disagrees with the Court's sovereign-immunity doctrine (for reasons described in his dissents in several of those cases, which he string cites). And writing on a clean slate, he believes abrogation is proper. But the majority opinion resolves the case as Breyer believes it must be resolved--applying Florida Prepaid. It thus seems the appropriate approach would have been to join the Kagan opinion but to write the opinion he did as a concurring opinion (not concurring in the judgment). It seems odd to concur in the judgment but not provide an alternative explanation or analysis for that judgment beyond "what the majority said, with which I disagree but with which I am stuck."

This seems like a half-measure version of Justices Brennan and Marshall in death-penalty cases. They dissented from every summary disposition and cert. denial on the grounds that capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment, refusing to follow established precedent and insisting the case should come out the other way. Breyer wants to follow precedent, even precedent he sees as wrong. But that means he agrees with the majority's analysis applying controlling precedent, even if he would prefer to reject that precedent.

So at the end of the day, this is a 9-0 case--everyone agreeing that the statute is invalid in light of Florida Prepaid and three Justices expressing different views about the doctrine or pieces of the majority's analysis.

Finally, during SCOTUSBlog's live blog of opinions, Tom Goldstein identified a "generational divide" among the Court's liberals. The old guard of Ginsburg and Breyer--who were on the Court and dissented when this abominable line of precedent developed--continue to reject the doctrine. The new guard of Sotomayor and Kagan (who wrote the opinion) accept the current legal regime as correct. It is an interesting idea. Although query whether they regard it as correct as much as they recognize they are stuck with it and do not have the skin in the game to point to past dissents, as Breyer does.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 23, 2020 at 04:16 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The procedure of frivolous political defamation actions

The Donald Trump Campaign today sued the Washington Post in the District of D.C. over a June 2019 column by Greg Sargent. This follows the campaign's suit in New York state court against The New York Times. Meanwhile, Devin Nunes is up to seven lawsuits against various persons, bovines, and business entities.

This rash of lawsuits has many First Amendment advocates calling for more states and the United States to enact anti-SLAPP statutes. These suits represent the modern analogue to Southern officials' defamation campaign against northern media outlets in the 1950s and '60s. But I have been slow coming to the "anti-SLAPP is necessary" position; if the protections of New York Times were sufficient to stop the barrage 60 years ago, they should be sufficient now.

The answer comes from the latest episode of the All the Presidents Lawyers podcast. First Amendment advocate Ken (Popehat) White explains that the purpose of these lawsuits is not to win, because most of the suits are garbage under NYT and the plaintiffs and their lawyers know that. Rather, the purpose is to drag people into court and impose the time, burden, distraction, and cost of having to defend themselves, with the added benefit that it may make people and the press less willing to criticize these people. In theory, only an anti-SLAPP law--with its attorney's fees provision and expedited dismissal--addresses that problem. The alternative (in federal court) is sanctions under FRCP 11 and attorney's fees against counsel under § 1927. But courts may be reluctant to impose sanctions against a congressman, president, presidential campaign, or other powerful and famous plaintiff--especially to award attorney's fees as a sanction, which is the way to address the financial cost to the plaintiff that the lawsuit is intended to impose. Perhaps Nunes' seven nonsense lawsuits would indicate a sufficient pattern that a judge might find attorney's fees necessary for deterrence of client and attorney. But not in the mine run of cases.

Some commentators have suggested that the availability of an anti-SLAPP statute affects litigation choices. Nunes sued Twitter (a California company) and McClatchy Newspapers (publisher of the Fresno Bee) in Virginia, which lacks a strong anti-SLAPP law, rather than California, which has one. Both courts have declined to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, with analysis revealing confusion over the newly narrowed scope of general jurisdiction. Some commentators have suggested that the choice of forum (federal over state court) or the choice of parties depends on whether the federal court would apply the state's anti-SLAPP law.

But we should be more nuanced on the question of anti-SLAPP laws in federal court. I have argued that the special SLAPP motion should not apply in federal court (the position of the D.C. Circuit, in which the new Trump Campaign action was field), because FRCP 12 and 56 cover the issue. (And a 12(b)(6) dismissal, in which the court considers whether the statements as pleaded are opinion, can get the defendant out of the case quickly enough). By contrast, the SLAPP attorney's fees provision should apply in federal court. Under the "relatively unguided Erie analysis," not applying the fee provision would cause a plaintiff to choose federal over state court and the attorney's fee provision is bound up with substantive state policy concerns for protecting the free speech rights of its citizens. If the real concern is the cost of having to defend even a nonsense suit, an attorney's fee provision addresses that.

Finally, it is notable that the Trump Campaign, rather than Trump, brought these two suits. I am not sure how the campaign can claim injury from statements about Trump. One commentator suggested the Campaign sued to get the WaPo case in federal court. The Campaign is a Virginia corporation with its principal place of business in New York; Trump, the commentator implies, is a D.C. domiciliary and thus not diverse from the Post.

This returns us to Where In the World Is Donald Trump? Trump was a New York domiciliary prior to January 20, 2017. In October, he (and Melania) renounced his New York citizenship and filed a Declaration of Domicile in Palm Beach County, Fla., establishing Mar-a-Lago as their permanent residence. Trump thus appears to be a Florida citizen--he has a residence there and expressed his intent to remain. Although Trump resides in D.C., he has not manifested an intent to remain there (unless he manages to get Republicans to repeal the 22d Amendment). So it is wrong to say the case could not be in federal court were Trump the named plaintiff--it would be an action between a citizen of Florida (alone or with a citizen of New York/Virginia) and wherever the Post is.

On that point, this case offers a different procedural lesson, because plaintiff counsel screwed up the jurisdictional statement with respect to the Post. Paragraph 10 reads:

On information and belief, defendant WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post is a District of Columbia limited liability company with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C.

An LLC is a citizen of every state in which one its members is a citizen. So identifying an LLC as a party cannot establish jurisdiction because the LLC has no independent citizenship; you have to dig into the LLC's structure to identify individuals or corporations whose citizenship does not depend on someone else. Plaintiff did not bother doing that. I assume that some digging will lead to Jeff Bezos, who is a citizen of Washington state and/or some D.C. corporation. But the complaint, on its face, does not establish federal jurisdiction. And reflects the sort of bad (or disinterested) procedural lawyering I warn my students about. Curious if the Post will raise that or move on, knowing what jurisdictional discovery would reveal about its structure.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2020 at 04:35 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Judge Sutton hates Rooker and Feldman--So now what?

The Sixth Circuit reversed a Rooker-Feldman dismissal of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act action, challenging the interest rate included in state writs of garnishment. (H/T: Volokh's Short Circuit round-up). Judge Sutton writes a concurrence begging district courts to stop applying RF except to cases in which the district court is asked to rule that a final state supreme court judgment violates the Constitution.

Sutton insists that RF cannot be used to stop federal actions seeking to second-guess all state court rulings, such as an unappealed state trial-court ruling (whether interlocutory or final-and-appealable). Some courts had justified RF not only on § 1257, but also on § 1331's grant of original (rather than appellate) jurisdiction to district courts. If that also explains RF, then limiting it to final state supreme court decisions is too narrow, at least where the federal plaintiff truly claims constitutional injury arising from a state judgment.*

[*] The majority supported its no-RF conclusion in part because a writ of garnishment is not a judgment.

Sutton argues that such a case be handled by issue and claim preclusion. So does that work? Take the paradigm case of a state trial-court judgment stripping a father of visitation rights. If the father does not appeal to the state intermediate appellate court but instead runs to federal court, Sutton would say RF does not apply. But would preclusion bar that claim, as it must if district courts are not to become reviewing courts for state trial-court judgments.

I also would be concerned that the doctrine that will rise up to replace RF is not preclusion but Younger. A number of lower courts have used that doctrine halt these sorts of challenges where the state proceeding is pending. Except Younger should be limited to challenges to the underlying state law being challenged rather than to complaints about the state court decision itself.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 29, 2020 at 10:38 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 28, 2020

CFP: Junior Faculty Fed Courts Workshop

Washington University School of Law in St. Louis will host the Twelfth Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop on September 11–12, 2020. The workshop pairs a senior scholar with a panel of junior scholars presenting works-in-progress.

The workshop is open to untenured and recently tenured academics who teach and write in the areas of federal courts, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and other related topics. The program is also open to scholars who wish to attend, read, and comment on papers but not present.  There is no registration fee.

 

The conference will begin on the morning of Friday, September 11, and conclude by early afternoon on Saturday, September 12. Each panel will consist of three to four junior scholars, with a senior scholar commenting on the papers and leading a group discussion.

 

The workshop will take place at WashU Law, which is located 15 minutes from STL airport. The School of Law will provide lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees must cover their own travel and lodging costs. A discounted block of rooms will be made available at Washington University’s Knight Center, which is next door to the School of Law. Those wishing to present a paper must submit an abstract to [email protected] by March 30, 2020. Papers will be selected by a committee of past participants, and presenters will be notified by the end of May.

 

Questions about the conference may be directed to Prof. Daniel Epps ([email protected]) or his assistant, Andrea Donze ([email protected]). Up-to-date information about the conference will be provided at https://law.wustl.edu/faculty-and-research/conferences-and-workshops/12th-annual-junior-faculty-federal-courts-workshop/

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

YouTube not a state actor (Updated)

When SCOTUS decided Halleck last term and held that a private company managing public-access cable channels is not a state actor, it was obvious that this meant online platforms such as YouTube or Twitter were not state actors. And so the Ninth Circuit held on Wednesday in PragerU v. Google, a challenge to YouTube policies restricting or demonetizing certain videos. The court rejected the argument that YouTube performed a traditional-and-exclusive public function in managing a speech forum (the argument rejected in Halleck) or that YouTube's public declaration that it is committed to free expression changes its private nature.

This was easier than Halleck. There was something to the position that Justice Sotomayor took in her Halleck dissent that it was a delegation case rather than a public-function case--the government took on a responsibility then delegated it to a private entity. YouTube is an electronic version of the private comedy club discussed in Halleck.

This part of the opinion ended on an interesting point, telling everyone, in essence, to calm the f*&^ down:

Both sides say that the sky will fall if we do not adopt their position. PragerU prophesizes living under the tyranny of big-tech, possessing the power to censor any speech it does not like. YouTube and several amicus curiae, on the other hand, foretell the undoing of the Internet if online speech is regulated. While these arguments have interesting and important roles to play in policy discussions concerning the future of the Internet, they do not figure into our straightforward application of the First Amendment.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 26, 2020 at 06:00 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bivens closer to death (and Thomas would kill it)

In one of the (unfortunately) least surprising decisions of the Term, SCOTUS held Tuesday in Hernandez v. Mesa that a Bivens claim was not available against a border-patrol agent who shot a Mexican national standing on the Mexico side of the border.

Justice Alito's opinion for five adopts the most restrictive view of Bivens, defining a new context to include virtually any identifiable factual distinction (here, the fact that the plaintiff was injured outside the U.S.), despite the right (Fourth and Fifth Amendment) and basic facts (excessive force by law enforcement standing on U.S. soil) being the same. Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, goes bigger--having cabined Bivens scope and limited its precedential value, the Court should "abandon the doctrine altogether." Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent for Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

One notable point of departure between majority and dissent is how each reads Abbasi. The majority reads it as the latest in a 40-year line of cases rejecting Bivens claims, reaffirming the narrowness of past factual contexts and the newness (and thus inappropriateness of a Bivens suit) in other contexts.. The dissent emphasizes that Abbasi, while rejecting a Bivens action against high-level policymaking officials for national-security policy choices, "cautioned" against reading it to eliminate or limit core Bivens claims against rank-and-file law enforcement officers for unreasonable seizures.

If any case not on all factual fours with Bivens repesents a new context, the majority gets where Justice Thomas wants to go, without the political cost of overrulings. The "special factors" analysis will come around to congressional failure to authorize such a cause of action by pointing to § 1983 and the fact that it is limited to state (not federal) officials and plaintiffs within in the United States; that congressional failure will require judicial hesitation. The dissent's response--Congress enacted § 1983 in the middle of Reconstruction with a specific concern in mind and was not thinking about federal officials shooting people across borders--does not sway the rest of the Court. This factor always comes to conflicting views of what to do with congressional silence: The majority reads inaction as congressional intent not to reach the situation, while the dissent reads it as leaving the situation to Bivens (lest it create a situation in which it is "damages or nothing").

This decision is unsurprising, as conservatives have long hated Bivens. On the other hand, conservatives increasingly resort to the courts and constitutional litigation. What happens when conservative groups want to challenge ATF agents raiding their compounds?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 25, 2020 at 01:10 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, February 24, 2020

JOTWELL: Kalajdzic on Fitzpatrick on the conservative argument for class actions

The new Courts Law essay comes from Jasminka Kalajdzic (Windsor), reviewing Brian Fitzpatrick, The Conservative Case for Class Actions (2019). Brian gave a Fed Soc on the book at FIU last month.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 24, 2020 at 10:25 AM in Article Spotlight, Books, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Scope of the felon-enfranchisement injunction

The Eleventh Circuit last week affirmed a district court judgment declaring invalid a Florida law that required released felons to pay restitution and other "legal financial obligations" before their voting rights can be reinstated.

For my purposes, the injunction is limited to the 17 named plaintiffs in several consolidated cases. The Eleventh Circuit describes the district court preliminary injunction as "requiring the State to allow the named plaintiffs to register and vote if they are able to show that they are genuinely unable to pay their LFOs and would otherwise be eligible to vote." And it ends the opinion as affirming "the district court’s preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants . . . from preventing the plaintiffs from voting based solely on their genuine inability to pay legal financial obligations." No matter how some sources have read the order, the court of appeals is clear that this is a non-universal/particularized injunction, entitling the seventeen plaintiffs, but no one else, to vote.

The question is what happens next. The state remains free to decline to enforce the payment law against anyone while it continues to fight this litigation, even if not enjoined from doing so. That avoids either new litigation and a new injunction involving new plaintiffs or the court certifying a 23(b)(2) class of all felons unable to pay LFOs and extending the existing injunction to the class.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 22, 2020 at 02:20 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 10, 2020

A Model of Constitutional Litigation

My new piece on universal injunctions has been published in Lewis & Clark Law Review. Precedent, Non-Universal Injunctions, and Judicial Departmentalism: A Model of Constitutional Litigation joins three threads that I have been writing and blogging about here--the requirement of particularized injunctions, the distinction between precedent and judgment, and a model of departmentalism in which all branches are bound by judgments but only courts are bound by judicial precedent. The result is a model of how constitutional litigation functions in fact and should function in our understanding.

Abstract after the jump.

This Article proposes a model of constitutional adjudication that offers a deeper, richer, and more accurate vision than the simple “courts strike down unconstitutional laws” narrative that pervades legal, popular, and political discourse around constitutional litigation. The model rests on five principles:

1) an actionable constitutional violation arises from the actual or threatened enforcement of an invalid law, not the existence of the law itself;

2) the remedy when a law is constitutionally invalid is for the court to halt enforcement;

3) remedies must be particularized to the parties to a case and courts should not issue “universal” or “nationwide” injunctions;

4) a judgment controls the parties to the case, while the court’s opinion creates precedent to resolve future cases; and

5) rather than judicial supremacy, federal courts operate on a model of “judicial departmentalism,” in which executive and legislative officials must abide by judgments in particular cases, but exercise independent interpretive authority as to constitutional meaning, even where those interpretations conflict with judicial understanding.

The synthesis of these five principles produces a constitutional system defined by the following features:

1) the judgment in one case declaring a law invalid prohibits enforcement of the law as to the parties to the case;

2) the challenged law remains on the books; and

3) the challenged law may be enforced against non-parties to the original case, but systemic and institutional incentives weigh against such enforcement efforts and push towards compliance with judicial understandings.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 10, 2020 at 07:15 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 08, 2020

JOTWELL: Steinman on Engstrom on Lone Pine Orders

The latest Courts Law essay comes from Adam Steinman (Alabama), reviewing Nora Freeman Engstrom, The Lessons of Lone Pine, 129 Yale L.J. 2 (2019), on the history and development of Lone Pine orders in mass-tort class actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 8, 2020 at 03:31 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 27, 2020

Thomas and Gorsuch on universal injunctions (Updated)

SCOTUS stayed pending appeal the injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Trump Administration's public-charge regulation, another example of the government seeking and the Court granting extraordinary relief to allow the administration to continue enforcing policies pending litigation where the lower court found the policies defective. Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Thomas, concurred in the stay, to take aim at universal injunctions (with citation to the work of Sam Bray and Michael Morley), properly defining them as injunctions protecting beyond parties rather than in geographic terms.

Unsurprisingly, I agree with Gorsuch's basic point against universal injunctions. I am not sure what it has to do with this case. Gorsuch would have granted this stay regardless of the injunction's scope. And I am sure he is waiting for the government to challenge a particularized Illinois injunction that (he acknowledges) remains in effect so he can stay that, as well.

Update: I wanted to come back to the question of whether the stay was proper. Given the make-up of the Court, it seems clear that, when the case comes to the Court on the merits, the majority will declare the policy valid. That aside, what about the stay? Where the district court granted an injunction, the question should be what will create more permanent and long-lasting chaos--staying the injunction (thus allowing enforcement of the underlying policy) or allowing the injunction to remain in effect (thus stopping enforcement of the underlying policy, allowing continuation of the primary conduct the regulation is designed to stop.

Today's order means the U.S. can deny status to certain people for the moment, although should the reg be declared invalid at the end of the day, those people could then reapply and be considered without the now-unlawful policy. Had the Court not stayed the injunction, people otherwise subject to the order could enter and/or gain status; if the order ultimately is declared valid, the government would have people in the U.S. or with status who otherwise should not have been permitted. It does not seem that the government could retroactively apply the regulation to remove presence or status already granted under the old rules. So as abhorrent as I find the policy, it seems a stay was appropriate. Where am I going wrong?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 27, 2020 at 01:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Judge Easterbrook does judicial departmentalism

People are talking about Judge Easterbrook's opinion for the Seventh Circuit in Baez-Sanchez v. Barr, taking the BIA to task for not following the court's instructions on remand. Easterbrook is outraged about executive conduct that "beggars belief.' The court has "never before encountered defiance of a remand order,and we hope never to see it again. Members of the Board must count themselves lucky that Baez-Sanchez has not asked us to hold them in contempt, with all the consequences that possibility entails."

Easterbrook then says the following:

A judicial decision does not require the Executive Branch to abandon its views about what the law provides, for the doctrine of offensive non-mutual issue preclusion does not apply to the United States. United States v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154 (1984). The Attorney General, the Secretary, and the Board are free to maintain, in some other case, that our decision is mistakenthough it has been followed elsewhere, see Meridor v. Attorney General, 891 F.3d 1302, 1307 & n.8 (11th Cir. 2018). But they are not free to disregard our mandate in the very case making the decision. That much, at least, is well established, not only in Plaut but also in many other cases. See, e.g., United States v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 464 U.S. 165 (1984). The Solicitor General did not ask the Supreme Court to review our decision, and the Department of Justice is bound by it.

Although he does not use the term, this is a nice and succinct encapsulation of judicial departmentalism: The executive can disagree with and disregard a judicial decision it regards as mistaken in some other case. But the executive cannot disregard the court's mandate in the current case when that mandate has become final and unreviewable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 25, 2020 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Immigration, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Two from the Fifth Circuit

From John Ross' invaluable weekly round-up of federal court of appeals decisions at Volokh Conspiracy come two from the Fifth Circuit.

• In U.S. v. Varner, a trans female prisoner moved the court to amend the judgment of confinement to reflect her new name, while asking the court to use her new name and preferred pronoun. My interest in the case is that the majority held that the motion to amend should have been denied for lack of jurisdiction, because no statutory or rule basis for amending a judgment applied. The dissent properly accuses the majority of issuing a "drive-by jurisdictional ruling;" what the majority labels a lack of jurisdiction is better understood as a failure of the petition on the merits, because Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 allows for correction of clerical errors; the problem is that a clerical error is not at issue here. That is, the failure of the petition to satisfy the rule defeats the petition, but not for lack of jurisdiction.

I will not say much about the dispute between majority and dissent about the pronoun request, except that the dissent has the better reading of the request and I cannot imagine a court being more dismissive of the preferred-pronoun issue.

• In Horvath v. City of Leander, the court affirmed a grant of summary judgment against a firefighter on a claim that the city violated the First Amendment by insisting that he take a different job or wear a respirator because he claimed a religious objection to the TDAP vaccine. The majority found that the city offered a reasonable accommodation, which the plaintiff refused.

Judge Ho concurred in the judgment in part and dissented in part. Ho would affirm the judgment on the clearly established prong of qualified immunity, but then proceeds to rail against qualified immunity as unjustified by common law, the Constitution, or § 1983. He argues that the concerns justifying qualified immunity can be addressed if courts do a better job with the merits prong; the current problem "stems from misuse of the first prong of the doctrine. Simply put, courts find constitutional violations where they do not exist." If courts did a better job with the constitutional analysis, police would not be chilled or over-deterred.

But then he gives the game away about where this would take us. After all, "the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit reasonable efforts to protect law-abiding citizens from violent criminals--it forbids only unreasonable searches and seizures." Unspoken is the view that police can do whatever they believe necessary in the moment against someone they believe poses a threat to law-abiding citizens--it would be open season on anyone perceived as a threat. Unless, of course, those police officers speak rudely to a white woman who wants to pray while the officers are searching her house.

Look, I agree with Judge Ho that we should get rid of qualified immunity and let the Constitution do the work. But his opinion shows that the cross-ideological opposition to qualified immunity will give way to ideological splits on substantive rights--lots of Free Exercise violations when officers are mean t0 Christians, few Fourth Amendment violations when officers shoot African-Americans.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 17, 2020 at 07:00 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Universal consent decrees

Two U Conn students who were prosecuted and sanctioned by the university for violating the school policy against "disruptive behavior" for uttering a racial slur have filed suit in the District of Connecticut, claiming the school sanctions violate the First Amendment. (H/T: Eugene Volokh). The case should be easy as a First Amendment matter--the students seem to have shouted the slur into the ether, not directed at anyone and not accompanied by any threatening conduct.

But it is procedurally interesting, potentially complicated, and seemingly wrong. After the jump.

In 1990, U. Conn. entered a consent decree in a lawsuit brought by a then-student named Nina Wu, who was sanctioned for saying "no homos" on a board on her dorm-room door. The consent decree permanently enjoined U. Conn. from enforcing a provision of its student code "against this plaintiff or any other student." This is a universal injunction, protecting the universe of U. Conn. students (or it is at least non-particularized). I would argue the court cannot and should not issue such an injunction. The completeness of Nina Wu's remedy is unaffected what might happen to do students 30 years later--that is, students who were not born at the time of the injunction. On the other hand, U. Conn. could have entered the consent decree with Wu, then voluntarily altered its conduct and declined to enforce the provision against any other student (which is what usually happens). But this case offers a third option--U. Conn. voluntarily bound itself to non-enforcement as to non-parties as a matter of an enforceable judicial order. Can a defendant do this? Can the court do it if the defendant agrees? Can a court enforce it as it would a properly scoped injunction?

The plaintiffs frame their case, at least in part, as an attempt to enforce the consent decree. They allege in ¶ 8 that they have standing to enforce the decree because of its stated scope. But then the procedural posture makes no sense--why (and how) can a plaintiff file a new lawsuit to enforce a judgment in a different action, even if in the same district and assigned (under a local related-case rule) to the same judge. It seems to me that the proper course have been to move to intervene or join as plaintiff in Wu and to move the court with jurisdiction over the injunction to enforce or modify. Filing a new lawsuit before a new judge is proper if asking for a new injunction protecting these plaintiffs as to these defendants.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 16, 2020 at 04:47 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Why not just have oral argument?

Bloomberg has a story (behind paywall) Judge Alan Albright of the Western District of Texas and some of his standing orders and practices. Among them: The use of "audio briefs," recordings of briefs longer than 10 pages, which the judge listens to while driving and biking.

I am in favor of greater orality in litigation. But part of the benefit of more orality is more bench presence and more contact between the court and the advocates. This seems to provide the worst of both worlds--the looser argumentation of oral compared with written advocacy, but without the presence and contact.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 13, 2020 at 11:02 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 09, 2020

JOTWELL: Malveaux on Burbank & Farhang on rights retrenchment

The new Courts Law essay comes from Suzette Malveaux (Colorado), reviewing Stephen B. Burbank & Sean Farhang, Rights and Retrenchment in the Trump Era, 87 Ford. L. Rev. 37 (2019), a follow-up to their 2017 book on the counter-revolution against federal litigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 9, 2020 at 11:15 AM in Article Spotlight, Books, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

C.J. Roberts and the Year-End Report

At SEALS next summer, there will be a discussion group to mark fifteen years of the Roberts Court and the Court's renewed engagement in civ pro (something I wrote about at the six-year mark). For a topic, I was considering the way that Roberts has used his Year-End Reports to talk about civil procedure and the FRCP, in ways both good and bad, proper and less so.

Adam Feldman on Empirical SCOTUS looks at the particular words Roberts uses in these Reports to talk about the power and role of judges and the judiciary. Although about the judiciary broadly and not only civ pro, it offers a good starting point.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 8, 2020 at 11:50 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 06, 2020

A teaching experiment

Our new scheduling guru is trying something new this semester--teaching on consecutive days rather than alternate days. So rather than Civ Pro meeting Monday/Wednesday/Friday, it will meet Wednesday/Thursday/Friday.

I am excited to see how this works. It should be interesting to have students working and focused on just my material (or my material and material in one other class) in a few-day block. And it fits how I structure the class and syllabus by topic rather class session--we work through something in however much time it takes, even if that time cuts across multiple classes. I am anxious to see whether that works better when students return to a case or problem in 24, rather than 48, hours.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 6, 2020 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Constitutional small claims court

Clark Neily at the Cato Blog proposes a constitutional small-claims court for low-level constitutional violations. Neily's starting example is a cop citing a woman for disorderly conduct for saying "bitch" in public, an obvious constitutional violation, then ordering away (on the silent threat of arrest) an attorney who attempted to intervene. Neily's proposal would create a small-claims-court/traffic-court hybrid, with small-money damage awards paid from an escrow fund established by each department. Neily acknowledges the major structural departure, but says it is better than the current approach, "which is to collectively shrug our shoulders at the vast majority of relatively low-level civil-rights violations committed by cops hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day across the country."

It is an interesting idea, of a piece with other proposals to enable recovery on small violations. In my Civil Rights class, I discuss Jim Pfander's proposal to allow plaintiffs to seek only nominal damages in exchange for eliminating qualified immunity.

There are a host of details to work out, as Neily acknowledges. They begin with whether this system is in federal or state court and what that choice says about our current assumptions about the federal judiciary and civil rights. If at the state (or municipal) level, recall that municipal traffic courts have become money-making institutions for themselves, their local governments, and their police departments, creating their own constitutional violations. We might worry about recreating that system, even with the different goal of compensating citizens against governmental overreach. Finally, should it be limited to police or should it extend to other executive officials who violate rights in a small, l0w-level way, such as the staffer in the Recorder of Deeds office?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 24, 2019 at 11:27 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, November 29, 2019

More state action and private vendettas

I wrote awhile back about a case in which police officers took private action against a citizen (trashing his car) based on a personal vendetta resulting from a professional dispute (the citizen filed a departmental complaint about them). The Seventh Circuit found no state action in an analogous case. A citizen shouted at a police officer while he was making an arrest and criticized the officer (and perhaps threatened his family) on Facebook, prompting the officer to file a criminal complaint with a fellow officer, prompting that officer to arrest the citizen. The court held that, although the original interaction came when the officer was on the job, he acted as a private citizen in filing a criminal complaint with another officer, who then pursued those charges.

The Seventh Circuit's analysis would reject the potential claim in the earlier case. I imagine the court would say the officers acted as private citizens in trashing the guy's car and it is not enough that the dispute traces to official police conduct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 29, 2019 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Organizing Fed Courts

My Fed Courts class ended this week. For the second straight year, I ran out of time and was unable to reach the last section, on  Congressional Control over the Federal Courts; this covers Klein and Plaut, as well as the fun theoretical stuff on jurisdiction-stripping, court-packing, etc.

After the jump is the broad strokes of my syllabus. I would welcome thoughts of what I can or should cut to give me the two days I would need to include this final section. Or, alternatively, is the congressional control stuff the least important and it falling by the wayside, while unfortunate, is less problematic than if I skipped something else.

By way of background, I teach Fed Courts as (in the words of one former student) "the love child of Con Law and Civ Pro." It is a federal-court litigation course, interspersed with some constitutional and judicial theory.

Introduction: Broad strokes of the text of Art. III and the broad structure of the federal judicial and judicial decisionmaking.

SCOTUS Jurisdiction: Original; § 1257; § 1254

Ct App Jurisdiction

District Court Jurisdiction: Federal Question (including Grable); Complete Preemption; ATS

Non-Article III Jurisdiction: Magistrates, Bankruptcy, CAAF

11th Am

Justiciability: Standing/Ripeness/Mootness

Abstention:

I added Non-Article III a few years ago. It takes about 1-1 1/2 days, so it could go and leave most of the additional time I need. But I thought (and think) is is too important, given how much more decisionmaking is done by non-Article III actors. I also used to spend less time on 11th Amendment, which I cover in Civil Rights. But I have no guarantee students will take that course and I believed they needed fuller coverage.

Just to clarify: We get to the basics of congressional control--the difference between the source of SCOTUS power as opposed to lower-court power, for example. We do not get to things like the Hart-Wechsler debate, the stripping debates of the 1980s, court-packing, and the various recent  proposals to change SCOTUS structure--in other words, the fun, theoretical, and not likely to happen stuff.

Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 25, 2019 at 11:44 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A pleading question

The Comcast argument from two weeks ago featured competing hypotheticals designed to show proximate cause under § 1981, but instead showed the problem of pleading oneself out of court. Following some comments on my prior post, I have been thinking about both (which I would like to use in Civ Pro next semester).

Hypo # 1: African-American not hired by law firm; receives letter saying "You're African American and we don't hire non-lawyers."

Option # 1: Complaint quotes the "You're African-American" language of letter but nothing else. I think the Complaint passes muster, although the defendant may be able to offer the full letter on a 12(b)(6), which would change the analysis.

Option # 2: Complaint quotes entire letter (or attaches letter as written instrument). Complaint fails unless plaintiff alleges fact rebutting the non-lawyer piece of the letter. We would say P has pleaded himself out of court, but including a fact that undermines his claim.

Hypo # 2: Hotel refuses to rent room to African-American, telling him "We don't rent to African-Americans and we are out of rooms."

Option # 1: Complaint only quotes the first statement. Again, I think the complaint passes muster.

Option # 2: Complaint quotes both statements. I think the Complaint would fail for the same reason as the first case. A commenter suggests otherwise, because it may be that the hotel was lying about there being no rooms. But must the plaintiff allege a fact rebutting the statement that there are no rooms, at least on information and belief, to show that it might be false? Just as the lawyer-applicant must allege facts rebutting non-lawyerness as the basis for not hiring? If the "reasonable alternative explanation" language of Iqbal does any work, this would be it--the complaint provided the alternative explanation. Or does drawing all reasonable inferences for the plaintiff allow for the inference that the hotel is lying about the adverse fact?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 24, 2019 at 11:15 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pleading yourself out of court and other thoughts on Comcast

Some thoughts after listening to arguments in Comcast, where the question was the causation standard ("but-for" or "motivating factor") for a § 1981 action.

• I did not understand the  argument from respondent (represented by Erwin Chemerinsky) that the standard could be motivating factor at pleading and but-for at trial or summary judgment. A motion under 12(b)(6) is supposed to ask whether, if everything the plaintiff alleges is true, the plaintiff can prevail--under whatever the controlling legal standard will be. It makes no sense--especially given the spin in Twiqbal--to allow a pleading to pass scrutiny when its facts could not meet the applicable standard.

The argument and questions seemed to conflate this with the distinct, and unremarkable, proposition that a plaintiff need not plead all the evidence she will have or use to prove her or claim. Or that a plaintiff should only be expected to plead what she can know or learn pre-discovery (an idea to which Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, as well as Kagan, seemed receptive). Or that a plaintiff can prove her case with different evidence and different rationales than she pleads it.

• There were competing hypotheticals that illustrate the idea of a plaintiff pleading herself out of court, but that do not necessarily grapple with the problem here. The first, proposed by ASG Morgan Ratner, involves a law-firm applicant who receives a rejection letter saying "you're African-American and we're not hiring you because you never went to law school;" Ratner argued there would be no plausible claim of discrimination, because it was not plausible that the law-firm plaintiff could have been hired in any event. The second, proposed by Chemerinsky, is a plaintiff told by a hotel that it will not give him a room because no rooms are available and the hotel does rent to African-Americans; he argues that those allegations should be sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.

The problem is that the hypos do not reflect how pleading works, because the fundamental nature of pleading and 12(b)(6) motions is that they are one-sided--only the facts alleged by the plaintiff are considered and the plaintiff can limit her pleading to those true facts (or facts she believes supportable on reasonable inquiry) that support her case. There is no obligation to plead adverse facts. And, as several justices and Chemerinsky reiterated during the argument, no need to anticipate and rebut the contrary facts the defendant may present.

So how would a plaintiff plead each of those cases? I imagine the rejected lawyer would plead that he was denied a job and the rejection letter mentioned his being African-American; the hotel guest would plead that they told him they do not rent rooms to African-Americans. A motion to dismiss would be denied, because those facts, if true and without more, could plausibly show that race was a but-for cause.

Both complaints are incomplete, as they withhold facts favorable to the defendant. But the defendant cannot introduce those facts at 12(b)(6). It must wait for summary judgment. Or maybe it could answer, add the additional facts (not a lawyer or no room at the inn), then move under 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings. It could prevail at either stage, because there is a non-discriminatory reason for its action and the result would have been the same--a point Chemerinsky seems to concede.

Had either plaintiff pleaded complete information (or had the law-firm plaintiff attached the rejection letter to the complaint), I think both complaints should be dismissed, because the plaintiff had "pleaded himself out of court." A defendant could move under 12(b)(6) and say "look at the four corners of the complaint, it shows the plaintiff cannot state a claim because it is not plausible that discrimination, as opposed to his not being a lawyer, caused his non-hiring, because the facts in the complaint show he was not hired because he is not a lawyer." Which, again, is as it should be. If the plaintiff offers and does not contest facts of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the action, his claim should fail.

Here is a different, interesting procedural question: Suppose the law-firm plaintiff just pleaded that the rejection letter contained racially motivated language. Could the defendant on a 12(b)(6) present the letter to give full context to what the plaintiff was told and still have it be treated as a 12(b)(6) (rather than converted to summary judgment)? The letter is not part of the four corners of the complaint. But the complaint references the letter, so the letter itself provides context. The Twombly Court did this with the magazine feature on Dick Notebaert in which Notebaert said competition was a way to turn a quick buck, but that didn't make it right.

• There was some discussion of Summers v. Tice (the two-hunters case from torts) for the idea that a claim can succeed when two plausible causes are presented showing liability, either of which was a but-for cause. But Summers does not seem the appropriate analogue here. The issue in Summers was that either of two people engaged in unlawful actions that might have caused the plaintiff's death--because either could have unlawfully caused the death, either could be liable, so both could be liable (and we will leave it them to sort out liability between them). The issue in the hypos is that one person engaged in two actions that caused the non-hiring or non-rental--one of those acts was lawful, the other was unlawful. So in Summers, the result (death) was the same and someone must be responsible because it resulted from one of two unlawful acts. In the hypos, the result (not hired/not given a room) was the same, but it resulted from one of two acts, one of which was lawful.

• Breyer and Gorsuch pushed that a plaintiff can satisfy 8(a)(2) by pleading mental state on information and belief. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh also suggested that discrimination cases should not be easily dismissed at the pleading stage. Such comments suggest a potential opinion loosening pleading standards. I wait to see if it is something that might become part of the Civ Pro course.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 17, 2019 at 11:50 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Inexplicable decisions, in one post

The unifying themes of these decisions is that I heard about them yesterday and I do not understand.

• The Tenth Circuit held that officials of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine enjoyed qualified immunity from First Amendment claims arising from the school sanctioning a med student for "unprofessional" speech, because it was not clearly established that a professional school could not punish speech in the name of instilling professional values.

The court jumped to the second, "clearly established" prong of the qualified-immunity analysis, as it has discretion to do; but the court went beyond that, insisting that merits-first should be the exception, because of constitutional avoidance. But this seems problematic, generally and in this case. Generally, it will produce fewer opportunities for courts to develop constitutional law. In this case, skipping the merits no sense because the plaintiff also sought injunctive and declaratory relief, which is not subject to immunity and requires consideration of the constitutional merits. The court never explains what happened to those claims or why they do not compel the court to reach the constitutional question.

The case also reveals how courts, despite rhetoric to the contrary, demand factual overlap. As the court put it, the plaintiff “failed to identify a case where [a medical school administrator] acting under similar circumstances as [the defendants in this case] was held to have violated the [First] Amendment.” A" patchwork of cases connected by broad legal principles" is insufficient.

Also, note that the court ignored one factor weighing in favor of reaching the merits--the presence of amicus briefs from several First Amendment advocacy organizations, as well as Eugene Volokh. When the Third Circuit reached the merits and recognized a First Amendment right-to-record (while finding the right not clearly established at the time), it pointed to the presence of amici and the quality of the briefing in the case.

• The Fifth Circuit continues to be the only circuit to categorically reject state-created danger as a basis for substantive due process liability. The case involves  the mishandling of a 911 call--including waiting for officers to volunteer to respond and later refusing to help family members enter the victim's house unless they confirmed with local prisons and hospitals that she was not there, as well as the responding officers stopping at 7-Eleven before proceeding to the scene.

More standing/merits overlap (or confusion) in this Sixth Circuit affirmance of denial of a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs are parents of a child with autism, who placed him in a private therapy program instead of public school; although he improved in private therapy, the state convicted the parents of truancy. They then enrolled him in a state-approved private school. But they are concerned that he may regress, that they may want to pull him out, and that they again will be prosecuted for truancy. So they sued for an injunction. The court of appeals affirmed the denial, agreeing that the parents could not show irreparable harm without the injunction because the hypothetical threat of enforcement was not "certain and immediate," but "speculative or theoretical," dependent on ifs (if the son regresses, if they pull him out of the current school, if they cannot find a new option, if the state decides to prosecute).

Assuming the court is correct about imminence, why is that not a standing problem--the family is not suffering a concrete and particularized injury because they have not shown "an intention to engage in a course of conduct" proscribed by statute for which there is a credible threat of prosecution. The course of conduct (pulling him entirely out of school) may not occur, depending on too many variables. But that seems to be precisely what the injury-in-fact prong of standing asks. The answer should not be different at the standing analysis than at the injunction analysis--if the injury is sufficiently imminent to establish standing, it should be sufficiently imminent to satisfy the irreparable harm requirement. This is why irreparable harm is often assumed in constitutional cases--the violation of rights (or threatened violation, sufficient for standing) qualifies as irreparable harm unless the injunction issues.

As a normative matter, it is interesting to consider whether the plaintiffs might have fared better had they sought a declaratory judgment rather than an injunction. They would not have had to show irreparable injury (although the court almost certainly would have moved this immediacy analysis up to standing and dumped the case on that basis--see above). This illustrates the type of case Sam Bray argues is appropriate for a declaratory judgment--the plaintiffs need an explication of rights but do not need judicial oversight or supervision going forward. The plaintiffs wanted and needed  guidance and certainty--to know where they stood and what they could (and could not) do as they tried to create the best opportunities for their son; they did not need a court order prohibiting government officials from acting at this time.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 16, 2019 at 03:25 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 08, 2019

State-level universality

Much of the controversy over "nationwide" or "universal" injunctions has arisen in suits challenging federal las and regulations. But the reason for finding and using the appropriate nomenclature is that the real problem--injunctions protecting beyond the plaintiffs--can arise in challenges to all laws at all levels.

A divided Eighth Circuit addressed this in Rodgers v. Bryant, a challenge by two individual beggars (their term) to Arkansas's anti-loitering law. The district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting all enforcement and the majority of the court of appeals affirmed, relying on the district court finding that the law is "plainly unconstitutional," so it should not be enforced against anyone. Even the courts most willing to issue non-particularized injunctions in challenges to federal law have advanced beyond "the law violates the Constitution, so it can't be enforced against anyone" rationale.

Dissenting, Judge David Stras gets it perfectly right--the district court granted a universal preliminary injunction, prohibiting state police from "enforcing the law against anyone, anywhere, at any time based on the harm faced by two individual plaintiffs." It is "universal" in that it protects the universe of people who might be subject to Arkansas law-as universal as the travel ban, only applicable to a smaller universe.

Stras examines the history equity to conclude that such non-particularized relief was not proper in individual actions and that equity's representative actions are now reflected in FRCP 23. Stras also hits the essential point that there is no reason to believe (and neither the district court nor the majority found) that "safeguarding Rodgers’s and Dilbeck’s right to speak somehow depends on preventing enforcement of the anti-loitering law against anyone else." The plaintiffs, he argued, sued to vindicate their own rights, so they obtain "complete relief" from an injunction protecting them from arrest under the statute.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 8, 2019 at 07:38 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Allen v. Cooper argument review

My SCOTUSBlog review of Tuesday's argument. It seems pretty clear the Court is going to reverse--only Justice Alito pushed petititoner's counsel and he seemed just as suspicious of the arguments from counsel for the state. Four justices--Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Kavanaugh--all expressed different versions of a suspicion that the state was asking for a license to violate rights.

A few interesting stray comments and exchanges from the state's side. The first was his assumption that sovereign immunity only bars claims for damages but no injunction relief; this is true in effect because of Ex Parte Young, but not true as a matter of formal sovereign immunity doctrine. The other was the Court's response to the state's argument that, even if the state cannot be sued, the individual infringing officers can be sued, while conceding they will be indemnified and may enjoy qualified immunity. That last point raised the Chief's hackles--he did not seem to buy an individual suit as an alternative if the officer would be immune; counsel for the state argued that the showing for an intentional infringement (and thus a due process violation) is the same as the showing for clearly established, so any officer claiming immunity likely did not violate due process. Anyway, that was the most exorcised the Chief has been about an officer enjoying qualified immunity.

And, of course, I could not resist some pirate jokes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 6, 2019 at 11:52 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, November 01, 2019

Fun with diversity (Updated)

Two fun news stories on diversity.

1) President Trump announced yesterday that he was changing his domicile from New York to Florida, although he insists he enjoys living in the White House and plans to continue to do so for another five years. The jurisdiction essay for spring 2017 had Trump attempting to remove Summer Zervos' lawsuit; the best answer was despite having moved to Washington and owning property in Florida at which he spent a bit of time, he remained a New York citizen and was barred from removal by the Forum Defendant Rule.

So has Trump affected a change of domicile with his announcement, seeing as how he owns property and spends some part of the year in Florida? Or does he need to be present there more permanently after leaving the White House? Better still, does his stated desire to remain the White House five more years suggest an intent to remain (and thus a change to DC), at least for now?

2) I got a call from a journalist about this one. An insurance company filed suit against a Washington, D.C.-based law firm (a limited partnership). The firm moved to dismiss because it has a London office and a partner a U.S. citizen) who moved to London to staff the office, has been there for five years, and intends to remain in London for the foreseeable future, while keeping his U.S. citizenship. Because that London partner is domiciled in the U.K. while remaining a U.S. citizen, he is "stateless" for diversity purposes. And because a partnership takes on the citizenship of all partners, the partnership is stateless for diversity purposes. Thank you, Elizabeth Taylor.

I could not tell the reporter whether this was unusual or whether it was an increasing trend. The firm's motion cites a 1990 case from the Second Circuit holding that Sullivan Cromwell could not be sued in diversity because of its U.S.-citizen partners staffing overseas offices.

What I cannot figure out is why the firm (which filed its own suit in state court) would rather be in NC state court against a NC-based insurer. It is both an outsider to the state and a defendant, the two groups who generally want to be in federal court.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 1, 2019 at 01:58 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

JOTWELL: Mullenix on Choi on class-action mega fees

The new Courts Law essay comes from Linda Mullenix (Texas), reviewing Stephen J. Choi, Jessica Erickson, and Adam C. Pritchard, Working Hard or Making Work? Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Fees in Securities Fraud Class Actions, which examines "mega fee" awards in class actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 30, 2019 at 11:36 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why not standing?

The problem with standing is not only that it is an improperly constitutiuonalized merits inquiry. It also is the inconsistency in the movement between standing and merits. Take this unpublished Third Circuit decision. Plaintiffs are anti-choice advocates who with to engage in sidewalk counseling through one-on-one conversations with entering clinic patients. The court performed a limiting construction on the statute, reading it (as it had done a similar ordinance in another case) as not reaching one-on-one sidewalk counseling.

But then shouldn't the result have been that the plaintiffs lacked standing? The conduct in which they intended to engage was not prohibited or regulated by the statute (as interpreted), so they were not suffering an injury-in-fact fairly traceable to the conduct of enforcing that statute, since that statute could not be enforced against them. At least that is how some courts resolve similar cases. And if not standing (as, normatively, it is not), that should mean that all of this is a question of the scope of the challenged law and the scope of constitutional rights?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 23, 2019 at 04:26 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Universal injunctions and mootness

A divided Ninth Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the new regulations regarding the ACA contraception mandate. One issue in the case, which the court ordered briefed, is whether a universal injunction issued by a different district court (and affirmed by the Third Circuit) moots this case. Because the plaintiffs are protected by the other injunction, a Ninth Circuit ruling will not change their situation. (H/T: Brian Cardile of the Daily Journal).

The majority held the case not moot, although some of its analysis does not capture the issue. The court began by discussing the risk of conflicting injunctions, which is not the issue here--the denial of the injunction in the Ninth Circuit would not conflict in the sense of creating competing obligations--the Third Circuit injunction obligates (or restrains) the government from acting as to anyone in the universe, so nothing the Ninth Circuit does changes that. The court also spoke about the territorial limits about its injunction, ignoring that the issue is not geographic where but party who. It said that the injunctions "complement each other and do not conflict." In fact, however, it is not that they complement--it is that they repeat one another, because the Third Circuit universal injunction, which protects the California plaintiffs, renders a second injunction unnecessary.

The majority avoided mootness by applying capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review. The Third Circuit injunction is preliminary (thus of limited duration) and before SCOTUS on a cert petition, both of which could result in the vacatur of its injunction or at least of its universality. The injury would not be capable of repetition only if the Third Circuit turned this into a universal permanent injunction, which is speculative and far off.

Judge Kleinfeld dissented on mootness, standing, and the merits. As to the different injunctions, he gets it:

That nationwide injunction means that the preliminary injunction before us is entirely without effect. If we affirm, as the majority does, nothing is stopped that the Pennsylvania injunction has not already stopped. Were we to reverse, and direct that the district court injunction be vacated, the rule would still not go into effect, because of the Pennsylvania injunction. Nothing the district court in our case did, or that we do, matters. We are talking to the air, without practical consequence. Whatever differences there may be in the reasoning for our decision and the Third Circuit’s have no material significance, because they do not change the outcome at all; the new regulation cannot come into effect.

This is correct and a proper recognition of what happens when courts take universality seriously.

I am not sure if the proper conclusion is that the appeal becomes constitutionally moot (I am not a fan of justiciability doctrines). Or, as Sam Bray argues, this is a good reason the Ninth Circuit should have stayed its hand.

Update: I took a quick look at the Third Circuit decision affirming the injunction. It misses the point, talking about people who work in different states than they live and the problem of geographic limitations. Again, however, the problem is not where. A protected plaintiff (including a state) is protected everywhere.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 22, 2019 at 04:33 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 07, 2019

Virginia has jurisdiction over Twitter in Nunes suit

It must be awful procedure day. In addition to whatever the Second Circuit did, a Virginia trial court denied Twitter's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction Cong. Nunes' suit against Twitter, a Twitter user, and Devin Nunes' Cow.

The court found "general personal jurisdiction" over Twitter, based on its being registered to do business in Virginia, having a registered agent in Virginia, deriving a large amount of revenue from there, and having many users in Virginia, "sufficient minimum contacts to confer jurisdiction." Perhaps in 2005, but not since Good Year, Daimler, and BNSF did away with general jurisdiction based on a company doing a lot of business in a state and seemed to limit general jurisdiction to state of incorporation and principal place of business. The court discussed BNSF to distinguish it based on the injury occurring in the forum state, but ignored the other two cases. It also emphasized that Nunes suffered an injury in Virginia (because that is where the tweets were sent from and read), while not mentioning that locus of injury is not sufficient and Twitter did not direct any activities (not deleting the tweets) at Virginia in relation to this case. Even if knowledge of the plaintiff's location were sufficient (it is not, after Walden), Twitter's assumption would have been that Nunes was in California or Washington, D.C., not Virginia.

The court also rejected a forum non conveniens argument, because it was not clear there was an alternative forum. It was not clear there would be jurisdiction in California, even though both Nunes and Twitter are from there and the individual defendant consented to jurisdiction there. (Nunes does not want to be in California, where he must deal with its SLAPP statute).

Someone said the judge has a reputation as being pretty good. This is not his best work.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 7, 2019 at 06:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, September 23, 2019

JOTWELL: Campos on Bartholomew on e-notice in class actions

The new Courts Law essay comes from Sergio Campos (Miami), reviewing Christine P. Bartholomew, E-Notice, 68 Duke L.J. 217 (2018), exploring the use (or non-use) of new technologies for providing notice in class actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 23, 2019 at 10:50 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Minding the abstention gaps

I am trying to make heads or tales of this Third Circuit decision, which reveals some problems and holes in abstention.

A family court awarded custody of Malhan's children to Myronova, his ex-wife, ordered him to pay child and spousal support, and to give his ex rental income from their jointly owned properties. Malhan eventually received joint custody (and more than half of residential time) and the court ordered Myronova to return some money. But the court postponed a request to reduce child-support obligations until final judgment (which has not issued), although the children spend more time with Malhan and he earns less money than is ex. At one point Malhan stopped paying child support (in erroneous reliance on a comment by the judge), causing the court to garnish his wages. Malhan sued in federal court, challenging (among other things) the disclosure and administrative levy of his bank accounts, the garnishing of his wages (which order was vacated), and the refusal to allow the plaintiff to claim certain offsets and counterclaims in the state proceedings.

This type of case has been identified as the paradigm Rooker-Feldman case: A party claiming constitutional injury by the custody and similar orders of a state family court. And the district court dismissed the action on that ground. But the Third Circuit reversed, holding that the plaintiff was not a state-court loser because there was no "judgment" from the state court, no order that was final as a formal or practical matter over which SCOTUS might have jurisduction under § 1257. The state proceedings are ongoing--motions are pending, discovery has not closed, no trial is scheduled, and the court has declined to give Malhan relief until that final judgment.

There is a circuit split was to whether Rooker-Feldman applies to interlocutory state-court orders. The Third Circuit adopted the textual argument to say no. RF is based on § 1257 giving SCOTUS exclusive jurisdiction to review state-court judgments; a district court thus lacks jurisdiction to review a challenge to a state-court judgment, which should instead be appealed through the state system and then to SCOTUS. On that view, RF does not apply to state-court orders that could not be appealed to SCOTUS, such as non-final orders.

The argument for RF barring challenges to interlocutory orders relies on the policies underlying RF that federal district courts should not interfere with state-court proceedings or be a forum for obtaining review and relief from state-court decisions. That policy is as offended by an attempt to circumvent state appellate procedure on an interlocutory order as on a final order. One could identify a textual component, tying it to § 1331 granting district court "original" jurisdiction, leaving them without power to, in practice, exercise appellate jurisdiction over a state-court order, even an interlocutory order.

The court rejected an alternate argument that the three claims were barred by Younger. None of the three claims fit the third Younger category of involving "certain orders uniquely in furtherance of the state courts' ability to perform their judicial functions." Count 2 challenged the administrative rules for collecting non-final money judgments; Count 5 challenged orders that are more like final monetary judgments and less like orders (such as contempt or appeal bonds) in furtherance of other judicial orders and thus enabling judicial functions. And the garnishment orders in Count 6 are threatened but not pending, thus federal jurisdiction would not interfere with state-court adjudication of those issues. The Younger analysis probably is correct, although the analysis as to Count 2 seems strained and the analysis and the analysis as to Count 6 suggests the challenge is moot, although the court strains to explain why it is not.

But the case produces a large abstention gap. An ordinary state-court interlocutory order in private civil litigation, one that is not akin to a contempt or appeals-bond order (orders that SCOTUS identified as enabling the state court to operate, as opposed to resolving the particular case), can be challenged in a § 1983 action. But Younger and RF together should mean that state courts must be allowed to decide the cases before them, without interference from federal district courts, subject to eventual review through the state system and to SCOTUS under § 1257. This case may allow substantial number of such cases into federal court.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 22, 2019 at 07:25 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Asylum injunction stayed, everyone confused

Sam Bray and I agree on the impropriety of universal injunctions--I am the NAIA version of Sam as opponent of universality. But I disagree with Sam's suggestion that Thursday's SCOTUS order staying the asylum regulations portends the end of universal/nationwide/whatever injunctions. This case is too confused and too much of a procedural and analytical mess to be that vehicle or even the canary in the coal mine.

First, the unstayed injunction that reached SCOTUS had been narrowed in the court of appeals to be circuit-wide rather than nationwide. So nationwideness should not have been an issue in this case. The court was staying a narrow injunction against a federal regulation.

Second, both lower courts had entirely conflated the issues and analysis, I believe because they continue to use the wrong nomenclature. The result was a mess. The modified-but-unstayed injunction that reached SCOTUS protected the named plaintiffs (immigration-rights advocacy organizations) within the Ninth Circuit, making it over- and under-broad. It was overbroad  because it purported to continue to protect non-plaintiffs; it was under-broad in focusing on geography, thus failing to provide sufficient protection to these plaintiffs by not barring enforcement against them everywhere they might operate and be affected by the challenged regs. In fact, Tuesday's order from the trial court reimposing the "nationwide" injunction (by supplementing the record that the Ninth Circuit found failed to support nationwideness) applied the appropriate analysis: It focused on the extra-circuit activities of the four named plaintiffs, that they operated and were injured outside the Ninth Circuit, and thus needed protection in other states; no mention made of protection for non-parties, which is the real problem. And the Ninth Circuit one day later limited that new injunction to the Ninth Circuit--inappropriately, as there were findings that the organizations work outside the Ninth Circuit and thus needed the protections of the injunction outside the circuit.*

[*] The result of this circuit-only approach is that one plaintiff who operates in multiple states must bring multiple actions to obtain complete relief. What should happen is that one plaintiff should have to obtain one injunction for itself, protecting everywhere. The further litigation should be by other plaintiffs, obligated to obtain their own judgment and remedy.

Instead, this seems an example of what Steve wrote about in his forthcoming Harvard piece (which Sotomayor cites in her dissental): The government increasingly seeking, and gaining, extraordinary relief from the Court in constitutional-injunction cases, rather than allowing litigation to proceed in the lower courts. It reflects the Court's general opposition to injunctions against federal regulations (a concern that seems to have begun on January 20, 2017 and likely will end on January 20, 2021). Scope had nothing to do with it.

Process aside, I am not sure the result--stay of the injunction--is not appropriate. I like to apply the chaos theory to the stay question--would allowing the injunction to take effect create irrevocable chaos if the lower court is reversed. On that theory, for example, stays of injunctions were appropriate in the marriage cases, lest the state have to either rescind marriages or have some same-sex couples married by the fortuity of the time that litigation takes. On the other hand, the stay of the injunction was inappropriate in The Wall case, since the harm is irreparable if government funds are unlawfully spent and an environmentally harmful wall is even partially built. As for this case, while the asylum-regs are enjoined, the government must allow this class of people to seek asylum. But there will be chaos in handling this group of people if the injunction is reversed on appeal because the regs are found to be lawful, yet some asylum-seekers are present when they should not have been and would not have been but for the erroneous injunction. I have to think more about that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 12, 2019 at 07:44 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)